We were happy to see the end of Golden and as we drove up the Golden hill and away from town Rachel said “Look at those statues!” and we all turned to see 6 Big Horn Sheep butts looking at us. We laughed at the first real Big Horn we had seen in years and all we saw were butts and Rachel felt a little silly to think they were statues. (However they WERE very still!)
Everywhere along the highway from Alberta through New Brunswick we saw signs to watch for Moose on the road. Stories are told of moose hitting vehicles and the bodies coming right through the front windshields. However as we journeyed on I knew I did NOT want to see a Moose, at least not close up anyway!
We drove cautiously from Golden to Stirling, about ½ hour on the other side of Lethbridge, a steady 100km per hour. Cars, trucks and scooters whizzed by but we kept plodding along. Every time I tried to increase speed and thought no one was looking Rachel would remind me “Mom, you are over 80, Mom you are over 90, Mom, stop you are over 100km!!!” I would try to justify my speed, but would ultimately slow down.
As we got closer to Lethbridge I started to get excited… just let us get there! I know there are people, a bonfire, food and beer waiting for us! I NEED beer! The drive was monotonous, the weather got squirrely and my passengers took turns snoozing, but me? NOPE! I have to stay awake! We pulled out of Golden around 3pm and into Uncle Larry’s driveway by 11:30pm… LONG SLOW DAY!
The next few days were restful and fun. We got to see family, visit, nurse a slight hangover and most importantly Len got to spend much needed time with his only brother. As we came to each visit and potential goodbye Len would well up with emotion, joy at the friendship or relation, sadness knowing that he may never see these people again. I however was still so ecstatic at our adventure and the future that I could not get that sad. Not to be heartless but I was happy about the move! We all were really, including Len.
We know that when we see friends again that time will have passed, our connections together have blurred, the reasons that brought us together have changed and our position has been replaced. Can we really ever go back to where we were with a friend? It is kind of like in high school, you are best friends with someone and then the summer or a school parts you, you stay in touch but it is harder and harder and you slowly grow apart. You can never regain what you had and you have and everyone has found new friends or passions to substitute the past. I guess we will face those same changes. If and when we return to visit, our associations will be brief and contact will feel more as if with an acquaintance than with someone who meant so much. As much as we will try to see everyone the connection will be brief, I guess this is part of the circle of life?
We spent Friday night to Tuesday morning in Stirling. This allowed me to take the girls to see my brother and his family. What a great visit! I thoroughly enjoyed our time together. We laughed, commiserated and shared how we had been. Thank you Owen, Susan, Althea and adorable little Gaerhardt for making us so at home! We were just sorry to miss Jesse! While at Larry and Lylia’s, Len was able to see his nieces, brother in law and their families as well as to reconnect with Larry.
Larry spent the whole weekend working on my truck, Buddy! He gave him a complete once over, oil change, tire check, trailer check, new hitch and equalizer bars and anything else he could do to try to make his big ‘little’ brother safe for the journey ahead! By Tuesday morning it was time to leave. It had taken us one week of our trip to get from Nanaimo to Stirling and now we were heading on to Saskatchewan. We were eager to move forward! Hugs, tears and goodbyes were said… and off we went!
Knowing that the roads from the Alberta/Saskatchewan border had just reopened due to massive flooding and road washouts, I was not too sure what to expect. I had never driven further than Lethbridge before so we were starting to head out into unknown territory. I had travelled to Saskatchewan as a kid, and I think I was about 9 years old the last trip. At that time we stayed with Grandma and Grandpa Giesbrecht at the Eagle campground not far from the Saskatchewan border.
As we travelled through the day we all felt relaxed and safe. The trip was getting less interesting as we went forward since we now had 2.5 Prairie Provinces to go through. The naps in the truck were getting more frequent and everyone (except me!) was asleep as we crossed the reopened highways, crossed the Saskatchewan Border and passed the campground I had been to as a kid.
I was enjoying the quiet with everyone sleeping and I watched the landscape go by. I always knew that I loved my country, but my god, it is beautiful! Every province had its own beauty and amazing qualities. I could see the original pioneers who travelled across in covered wagons pulled by oxen. I saw the children in my mind as they walked along the wagon train with their heads covered in bonnets and caps. I imagined the mothers giving birth along the road; the father’s facing off terrors of animals and enemies and keeping their family safe. As I watch the hay and long grasses wave in the wind I could see what it took to be what it is today. I was so grateful to have a vehicle, good roads and enough money and food to make my trip. 3 weeks to travel seemed lengthy but it was nothing compared to the long months summer and winter that pioneers trekked across the land. I was feeling great peace and slight melancholy as I imagined the prairie filled with tepee’s and buffalo and the loss that one culture faced to as other cultures took over the land.
By about 2pm I was getting a bit tired. The goal was to get to Moosejaw that night and in the morning explore the Moosejaw tunnels before we hit the road. We had been told about the tunnels that the Chinese had built while working the railroads and in the city. Apparently they did not like the snow and found alternative ways (tunnels) to get around the city to work the laundry, hotels, etc. I was excited to explore this as it was all new information to me. I found it fascinating, particularly since I was reading a book on Vietnam and the tunnels at the time and I found it very relevant.
We pulled into a rest stop that had a nice big turnaround for the truck and trailer. I kicked everyone out of the truck, put my seat into recline, bunched a coat into a pillow under my head and zonked out for about 45 minutes. When I woke up I used the lovely blue port a pottie to refresh myself and got everyone together to get started driving again. We waved goodbye to a 5th wheel and truck and to a motorcyclist and started to drive away…. We would be in Moosejaw in a few hours!
Uh oh! As I pulled onto the highway I heard a sound that seemed to come from the trailer. I pulled to the side and Len got out… something was wrong with the front axle on the trailer. (OK we are NOT mechanics but the smoke and burning wheel hub was enough to indicate we had a problem!) I hesitantly pulled a huge U turn and drove the wrong way down the highway to get back to the rest stop. As I drove I had de je vous of the old Steve Martin, John Candy movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”… I guess I had the flashback since a semi truck was in the same lane headed straight towards us! “YOUR’E GOING THE WRONG WAY!”
You may have surmised since I am writing this that I successfully executed the turn and re-entered the rest area. I then discovered that you can also use a GPS aka “Maggie” to locate commonly used travel points of interest. Our point of interest was a mechanic or tow truck driver! We had just passed a small community that did not have much near by and didn’t think it would make sense to call there for help. So I contacted a mobile mechanic in Swift Current, Sask. We only had to wait an hour or so for him to arrive with his truck and trailer and he informed us that we had a broken axel on the trailer and he could do a temporary repair but we would have to take it into the shop upon arrival in Swift Current.
The day had turned dark and we were seeing lightning in the distance, no problem, this happens on the prairies. However when the mechanic arrived and asked us to watch for any ‘cloud tunnelling’ or being circled by lightning while he fixed the truck, I did get a bit apprehensive. The rain began to pour down in sheets and when lightning struck followed by thunder in about .02 of a second we all jumped in our vehicles to wait it out. Sure, all we needed was to be hit by lightning!
After the rain slowed and lightning pulled back, the mechanic managed to repair the damage enough to give us a temporary axel to drive to Swift Current. He followed along behind us to ensure we were safe and took us into a small motel in town. We were to meet him in the morning so he could attempt to repair the trailer. We were excited because although it was 9pm at night (we still had to have dinner) we were right next to the pool and could watch Jess from our room with the door open. Oh yes, this is OUR trip right? Internet … down… pool… closed! This was the third pool closed (in high season) for repairs!
We spent the whole next day at the mechanics, I napped in the truck between visiting with his wife in the dirty old shop, sitting on the broken down furniture, surrounded by a big shop dog and a multitude of new kittens, surrounded by chair smokers and the “F” bomb. Nice! The good news arrived when the mechanic told us it would take 2 weeks to get the part in for the cargo trailer as it had to be ordered from the states. TWO WEEKS? YEAH RIGHT! I guess he saw my grief stricken face and while Len and I went for a walk to determine what to do the mechanic began to come up with a way to weld us a new part that he built.
I was so glad when we came back that we had a crafty guy working on the truck. What had our walk discovered? We could NOT put the trailer on the train to send ahead (we walked all over and could not find an office to talk to someone at the train station) and so Len’s other option was “hold a yard sale in the parking lot, sell all we own and the trailer and continue on.” NO!!!! I had already sold or given away almost everything I owned and treasured. Al l I had really kept were a few personal belongings, photos, memories, some of the kids’ extra special items from their rooms… I was devastated… this was not going to be the journey we hoped for!
We walked back dejectedly to the shop and were prepared to tell the mechanic to forget it, this was the plan when he told us he had it all worked out, he could fix it and get us on the road by mid to late afternoon! WOW! What a great guy! He had his wife order us lunch and drive me to pick the kids up from the motel. I was SO excited! He put aside all other work and prioritized us… THANK YOU!!!
A couple of hours later and we were on our way again, $1500 poorer but we still had our belongings, had met some lovely people and as they say…. “We’re on the road again!....” More of the trials and tribulations of the Sherman journey to come…..